The Eagles continue their virtual offseason and Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce spoke with the media on Thursday afternoon about the challenges of remote OTAs, his feelings on returning to the NovaCare facility, and a bit about the left tackle position.
Here’s what Kelce had to say:
On the virtual offseason
He was asked about the similarities of this rookie class and his rookie season off the lockout. Kelce said that there are some similarities, but the one good thing is that this year’s group of rookies and free agents will at least be able to meet with coaches and teammates, and will get the playbook.
Kelce noted that the Eagles have done a great job trying to help guys find ways to stay and get in shape. He also acknowledged that the NFL has given out stipends to help guys get gym equipment — it was a small stipend, but enough for them to be able to prepare physically.
Still, he said it’ll be a struggle for rookies and for free agents to not have OTAs and minicamps, but later noted that they are getting great work online with virtual meetings. The young guys are at least able to get in some mental reps and learn how to watch and evaluate tape.
Without the on-field work this offseason, they’re going to miss some of the little technical things, but Kelce thinks those are things they’ll be able to work on during training camp.
On getting back to the facility
“I’ll feel comfortable no matter what the NFL decides to do, to be honest with you. Because, I believe, at the end of the day, if the NFL is allowing 90 guys in the locker room, it’ll be in a safe, controlled environment, in my opinion.”
Kelce said whether the plan includes testing guys, or if the number of cases are few enough to return to the facility, there are a number of different factors that can shake out over the next few months.
“I don’t think we’ll be back at work next to each other unless the NFL is fully confident that it can be done in a safe manner.”
On his retirement
He decided to make the joke about retiring from arm wrestling because he didn’t really think he needed to make a statement at all about returning to football, but enough people had reached out with questions.
Kelce confirmed he’s been contemplating retirement and life after football the past few years, but he emphasized that when he chooses to retire everyone will know right away — before free agency and the NFL Draft.
Last year he felt comfortable whit how the season went, and he let the team know early on that he was preparing to be back another year. Physically, last season was “pretty easy” for him, and despite there being a few little things, everything is manageable.
Still, Kelce said he likes to take time after each season to evaluate things because it’s tough physically and mentally. He wants time to reflect after things calm down and get back to normal to see if he can give the same emotion and energy to his teammates, coaches and the city for another year.
“I’m very much excited and can’t wait to get going again with the guys.”
On the left tackle position
He isn’t worried about Andre Dillard potentially not being ready to take over the position from Jason Peters without a full offseason. Kelce noted that the biggest thing for returning guys is training camp and physically going against guys in pads, which Dillard would still have the opportunity to do. He further explained that players don’t improve that much physically in OTAs and minicamp, or get a ton of technique work until training camp.
Kelce had a lot of good things to say about the second-year player, and said that he’s very quick twitched, can move his feet really well, is athletic and smart.
“He’s got a lot of the things that are hard to get if you don’t have them. If there’s one weakness to his game last year, it was power.”
But, Kelce said that Dillard knows that was his weakness and has now had a full offseason to improve, whether that’s working on his technique or adding weight.
Kelce also said he’s love to play with Jason Peters again, but that decision will come from the front office. Regardless of who is out there this fall, he says the Eagles are in a good position. He admitted it would be weird to play without Peters, but that’ll be something that happens to all of them at some point.
On Isaac Seumalo
“I think Isaac is a phenomenal player.”
Kelce was quick to point out that Seumalo is a better playing than people give him credit for, and he’s had just a couple of tough games, but he’s “as solid as any guard in the NFL”.
He went on to say that Seumalo is one of the premier guards in the league — he’s smart, strong, and the only question was him staying healthy, but he’s shown he can. He’s a great asset for the Eagles and they’re going to be leaning on him to be the “unbelievable player that he is”.
Seumalo is “one of the least respected guys on the line (by outsiders),” but everyone in that room knows how good he is.